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Warren Harding Love Letters Discovered

July 9, 1964 - A packet of more than 250 love letters written by President Warren G. Harding to the wife of a department-store owner has been found in Marion, Ohio, the President’s home town.

According to Francis Russell, a historian who has read them, the letters are the first documentary evidence in support of the repeated assertions that Harding, while married, had affairs with at least two women.

The letters were written to Mrs. Carrie Fulton Phillips of Marion between 1909 and 1920, beginning when Harding was 44 years old. One of them suggests that Mrs. Phillips asked Harding for money as the price for remaining silent after his nomination for President in 1920.

Mr. Russell came upon the letters while working on a new biography of Harding. Since then, an effort has been begun to have the letters donated to the Library of Congress or some other institution and sealed for 50 years.

Many of the letters were written on the stationery of the U.S. Senate, in which Harding served before becoming President, or on postcards bearing his picture. They were signed “Warren” or “Warren G. Harding” or with the code-name “Constant.”

Mrs. Phillips, whose husband operated the Uhler-Phillips department store in Marion, died in 1960. After many years as a recluse, she had passed her last days in an institution for the aged maintained by public welfare.

Donald Williamson, a Marion lawyer who had been appointed her guardian, found the letters in a locked closet in the large house that had been Mrs. Phillips’ last home. She had lived there with six dogs.

The letters, jumbled and slightly discolored but otherwise in good condition, were in a large cardboard shoebox. Some of them were brief; others ran to 35 or 40 pages.

One, dated Christmas, 1914, and headed “The Seventh Anniversary,” includes this poem:

“I love you more than all the world.

Possession wholly imploring

Mid passion I am oftimes whirled

Oftimes admire — adoring

Oh, God! If fate would only give

Us privilege to love and live!”

Sometime in 1920, Harding wrote to Mrs. Phillips that he could not “secure you the larger competence you have so frequently mentioned.” He added: “I can pay with life or reputation, but I can’t command such a sum.”

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